Dave and Deb are an adventure travel couple who have been married for 16 of their 22 years together. A trip to Thailand in 2000 changed their life and they have been on adventures around the world on all seven continents ever since. They started their travel blog, ThePlanetD.com to inspire others and let people know that ordinary people can live extraordinary lives. Living by the motto Adventure is for Everyone, they prove that you don’t have to be an uber-elite athlete or super rich to be an adventurer. Here’s my Q&A with them.
1. How did you guys get started? We had a very slow start in our travel careers. We took our first trip to Thailand in 2000 and caught the travel bug. We were there only five weeks, but it changed our lives. We were lucky because we worked in the film business as freelancers. It allowed us to take the winters off if we wanted to travel. For the next 7 years, we’d work hard from April to October and then planned winter getaways ranging from a couple of weeks to several months. After a few years, we really wanted to make travel a full time part of our life, but we didn’t know how to make it happen. We looked into becoming diving instructors, leading bike tours and even thought about opening a bar somewhere, but none of it ignited a spark. We were looking for something that we could be passionate about. It was after hearing about the Tour d’Afrique, a cycling race from Cairo to Cape Town that we came up with the idea of pitching a TV show. We had an idea of being an average couple who takes on extraordinary adventures. We’d train hard or learn a new skill and show that anyone can do anything if they set their mind to it. The show didn’t take off, but we still loved the idea so we pursued it ourselves. Dave has always been an avid photographer and I have always enjoyed writing so we honed our skills, learned about the online business and developed ThePlanetD. We now have freedom to show people that an average couple can take on epic adventures and we’re now in charge of our own destiny. It couldn’t have worked out better.
2. Were you both always avid travelers? We always dreamed of travel, but it wasn’t until Thailand that we became avid travellers. Before that, we were like many of our friends. We’d take a package vacation to a resort somewhere in the Caribbean or we’d drive down to Florida for a week. We were nearly 30 years old before we started traveling a lot. Once our eyes were open to it, we asked ourselves, what took us so long? We spent so much time working on our careers that we missed out on life.
3. How many countries have you been to? We always try to write them down and then half way through we either get distracted or interrupted. We’re somewhere around 80 countries. I kind of wish we kept track of things better when we first started. I’m always impress with those people who know how many World Heritage Sites they’ve been to or how many capital cities they seen or what world wonders they’ve crossed off the list. Dave and I have good intentions to start tallying it all up, and then we get sidetracked by something else. Oh well, we do know we’ve been to 7 continents. We’re good with numbers under 10.
4. How has travel changed your life? Travel completely changed our life. We didn’t set out to make a change, but it happened. Before that first 5-week getaway in 2000, we were stuck in a rut. We were working too much and had drifted apart. Spending only five weeks in an exotic land helped us reconnect with each other and take stock of our lives. We never did adventures before that, but in Thailand, we tried rock climbing, sea kayaking, hiking in the jungle and we even rode an elephant for the first time. We were blown away that people actually live their lives this way. When we got home, we became more active and started to live life again. We took up rock climbing in Canada and we bought mountain bikes and started mountain biking on weekends. We signed up for a scuba diving course and became rescue divers. In the winter, instead of hibernating, we got a seasons snowboarding pass at Blue Mountain. Travel got us out of our rut and made our lives at home more fulfilled. We always tell people that you don’t have to leave for a year long around the world trip to change your life, it can be done in a couple of weeks if you are open to new possibilities.
5. How has travel changed your relationship as a couple? Travel has strengthened our relationship. When you are traveling long term as a couple, you come to rely completely on each other. We have to be open and honest with each other and there’s no ignoring a problem. Because we had our eyes opened to adventure, we feel that travel made us more interesting people. Before we travelled, we didn’t have a lot to talk about. We both worked hard and really didn’t do much else. When we went out to dinner, we were one of those couples who didn’t have anything to say, now we can’t stop talking to each other and we spend 24 hours a day together. We find each other interesting and inspiring and travel has made that happen.
6. What’s the best advice you have for couples when they travel? Communicate. It’s important to keep communication open. If you hold things in you will eventually pop. We have fights while we’re traveling and that’s ok. When we’re not happy with something we make sure to talk about it. Travel can raise emotions and problems seem to be magnified when you are in another country. So take a breath and be aware of that fact. You may feel more upset than usual, but that’s just because you are exhausted or frustrated. If you end up having a huge fight, that’s ok. Let it go and move on. We’ve had some doozies during our travels, but they’ve only made us stronger. We can laugh at them now.
7. What are your most memorable travel moments? I could say some of our greatest adventures like kayaking in Antarctica, cycling Africa or participating in the Mongol Rally, but when I think about memorable moments, they always seem to be with people. I think getting to know Ajith (our tuk tuk driver in Sri Lanka) was a special time. He had such a big heart. We went with him to a school one day in the jungle where he had raised funds to donate shoes to every student. We had the pleasure of being there to document the occasion. We got to know him because we hired him our first day there to take us to an ATM and he charged us exactly what was recommended in our Lonely Planet guide book. After that, we asked him for his cell number so we could use him for our entire month of our stay. We became friends and even met his family and went to dinner at his house. He has a special place in our hearts. We also met a man in India named Hussein who was the manager at our guest house. He had worked his way up the ladder since he was a kid. While his friends played he worked and while we were there he was in the midst of building his own hotel. We took us on a tour of it and we met his family and the 90 year old man who was doing all of the his artisan stone work. We spent New Years there and watch fireworks from the top of his half finished hotel. He was an inspiring man. There are so many stories like this, it’s the people we meet who really stand out in our travels.
8. Can you make enough money traveling the world? Yes you can. If you have a plan. We had an idea of being Spokespeople early in our travel careers. Coming from a film and TV background, we thought that it was possible for us to become travel experts and then have companies work with us the way they do with celebrities. We now work with American Express Canada, Expedia.com and HouseTrip in that fashion as their travel experts. It’s been a fun ride finding new ways to make a living and with the online travel world being so new and exciting, the possibilities are endless. We’re always thinking ahead of new ways to keep it going.
9. Do you have a home base? Not as of now. We’ve been on the road for four years solid. While we always plan on traveling, we are looking for a place to lay our head between travels. It’s time to have a bit of a home base. We’ve found that constantly jumping from one trip to another is exhausting. Now we just have to decide where we want to be between travels. That’s a tough choice.
10. Any advice for others to follow their dreams and do the same? Have a plan. A lot of people think that running away for a year will solve of life’s problems, but we think that it only creates more if you don’t plan well. We started small and I think that is a good practice for anyone. Slowly build up to where you want to be and don’t throw your life’s savings into a reckless dream. Do your research and be willing to work hard. We kept our jobs for another four years after we decided that we wanted to travel full time. We made sure that we were completely ready to dive in before finally quitting our jobs. We were a year into travel blogging before we quit for good. Even when we left work in 2009 to try to run the blog and travel for the first time, we came back to Canada for a couple of months and took a movie to replenish our funds. We had a back up plan so that we didn’t have to give up. We knew we’d have to work at other things for a bit while we were working on building our blog, but we never lost sight of our goal to eventually make it our full time career.